Saturday, March 14, 2020

Best pork carnitas with pickled onions and guacamole (Instant Pot, slow cooker, or oven)

These Instant Pot pork carnitas are my new favorite easy dinner recipe. There are many reasons why I love them.

First, it makes a lot of food. It’s truly a leftover lover’s dream! 

I use a bone-in pork shoulder. The smallest size I’ve been able to find is about 7.5 pounds, and very little of that is bone. That means this recipe makes about 7 pounds of meat! Sometimes I freeze half of the already-cooked meat because it’s a lot for two people to consume. Fortunately, it reheats well after being frozen.

Tip: This cut of meat runs about $3 per pound when it’s not on sale (I should specify this is the price in central Indiana), but every few weeks, local grocery stores will have it on sale for 99 cents per pound. That is an incredible price for this volume of meat! Last time it went on sale, I purchased and made two pork shoulders, and I froze the meat from one of them.

You can make this recipe a variety of different ways—Instant Pot, slow cooker, or oven. I made it in the Instant Pot. You all know by now how much I love my Instant Pot. 

Recently, I was listening to a podcast with author and New York Times food columnist Alison Roman, and she dissed the Instant Pot. She said something like you don’t feel as connected to the food because you don’t spend all day smelling it and tending to it. And while I wish I had the time to do that with every meal I prepare, it isn’t feasible.

Okay, so back to the recipe. I realize the cooking time seems like a really long time. You’ve probably never seen such a long Instant Pot cooking time. But keep in mind, this is a big piece of meat. And you want it to be super tender and fall off the bone. You could cut it up into smaller pieces, and it would cook quicker that way if you’re strapped for time. If you go that route, I would change the cooking time from two hours to about one hour.

I like to serve the carnitas with pickled red onions and guacamole, so I will include my favorite recipes for those as well.

NOTE: If you don’t own an Instant Pot, here are options for alternate cooking methods. For a slow cooker, cook for about 8 hours on low or 5 hours on high. Remember, you want the meat to be super tender and fall off the bone. For the oven, roast it at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 4 1/2 hours.

Pork Carnitas
  • 7-8 pounds bone-in pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed off
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 oranges sliced in half
  • 1 lime sliced in half
  1. Combine garlic powder, cumin, oregano, chili powder, dried basil, ground coriander, and paprika in small bowl.
  2. Rub spice mixture evenly over the pork and place in Instant Pot
  3. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and the lime over the pork. Place the oranges and lime pulp side down on top of the meat.
  4. Set the Instant Pot to cook on high pressure for 2 hours.
  5. Once it’s done cooking, allow the pressure to release naturally.
  6. Remove the pork from the Instant Pot 
  7. Shred the pork using two forks and remove it from the Instant Pot and shred the meat using two forks.
  8. Preheat the broiler. Arrange the meat in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place the meat under the broiler for about 3 to 5 minutes. Monitor it to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  9. Pour the cooking juices into a pot and boil for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to about 1/2 cup.
  10. Pour the reduced cooking liquid over the pork and toss to coat.
  11. Serve pork on tortillas with your favorite toppings, like pickled red onions and guacamole
Pickled Red Onions
  • 1 red onion, peeled
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sweetener of choice (sugar, honey, agave nectar, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  1. Slice the red onion as thin as you can. I recommend using a mandoline.
  2. Stuff the red onions into your container of choice. I like to use a mason jar.
  3. In a pourable large measuring glass, heat up water to the point that it’s nearly boiling, or about 1 1/2 minutes.
  4. Stir in apple cider vinegar, sweetener, salt, and red pepper flakes.
  5. Pour pickling mixture over sliced onions. Make sure they are immersed in the liquid.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to serving.
  7. They will last in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
Best Guacamole Ever
  • 2 ripe Hass avocados
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 – 1/2 jalapeño, including seeds and finely chopped
  1. Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits
  2. Scoop the flesh of the avocados out of the rind and place in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour lime juice and salt in bowl with avocados.
  4. Mash it all together until just combined (don’t over mix!)
  5. Fold in the red onion, cilantro, and jalapeño (once again, don’t over mix!)
  6. Taste the guacamole and adjust seasoning if necessary

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